The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation has committed $1 million to The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, the only civil legal services provider in Northeast Ohio serving people and families with low incomes. Specifically, this investment will support Legal Aid’s work to secure housing and economic stability for those who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
The Mandel Foundation’s gift will impact thousands of people across Northeast Ohio through Legal Aid’s representation, outreach, and advocacy work. Legal Aid’s high-quality civil legal counsel is provided at no cost to low-income clients, thanks in large part to philanthropic support from foundations such as Mandel.
“We believe this investment will go far to help those in need gain stability and hope during this difficult time,” said Mandel Foundation Board Chair Stephen H. Hoffman. “Communities of low-income people and communities of color have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and the pandemic’s economic impact. Legal Aid’s clients will experience an increased need in legal assistance to protect shelter, safety, and economic security.”
Mandel Foundation President and CEO Jehuda Reinharz stated, “Legal Aid’s work perfectly aligns with the mission of the Mandel Foundation: to improve the lives of our community members and create more just, inclusive, compassionate, and democratic societies.”
In 2019, Legal Aid impacted 16,710 people through 7,297 civil legal cases. In recent months, Legal Aid has seen a significant spike in requests for housing assistance and employment/unemployment issues. From July – September, for instance, intake applications related to housing increased by 39% and intake related to employment increased by 22%.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Legal Aid established a new Worker Information Line to help guide workers and the recently unemployed during the pandemic. The organization also created Virtual Advice Clinics to engage volunteers; held phone banks in partnership with News 5 Cleveland; hired additional staff to implement Cleveland’s new Right to Counsel Law and assist more clients across issue areas; and added timely, relevant, accessible resources to its website – which has seen traffic skyrocket since the pandemic hit, as people seek critical legal information from a trusted source.
Partnership from the Mandel Foundation not only reflects a dedication to advancing equity and opportunity for all, but it is an investment in the overall resilience of the greater Cleveland area during and beyond COVID-19.
“COVID-19 shed a light on existing inequities in our society – then proceeded to exacerbate those issues,” said Colleen Cotter, Executive Director of Legal Aid. “We responded to the crisis with new and innovative service models, expanded programs, and strategic partnerships to ensure we could help as many people as possible. With Mandel Foundation support, Legal Aid will continue to make our community stronger by addressing the needs of its most vulnerable members and promoting justice for all.”
About The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
In 1905, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland became the 5th civil legal aid organization in the United States. Its mission is to secure justice and resolve fundamental problems for those who are low-income and vulnerable by providing high-quality legal services and working for systemic solutions. Today, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland operates multiple offices serving Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, and Geauga counties. With a staff of 64 attorneys and 44 administrative/support staff, Legal Aid also boasts a volunteer roster of more than 3,000 attorneys – nearly 600 of whom are engaged in a case or clinic in a given year.
As our community members struggle to keep their jobs, stay in their homes, and provide basic necessities for their families, Legal Aid works to protect their legal rights and open doors to opportunity. This work has become even more essential during COVID-19. The resolution of clients’ legal cases is life-changing: Legal Aid can tip the scales between shelter and homelessness, safety and danger, and economic security and poverty. For more information, please visit www.lasclev.org.